With only limited space on most Indian smartphones, what happens when everyone goes app-only?

APP WARS

India’s largest e-commerce company is going app-only in Sep-tember, but will all its potential customers have the capacity to keep its app on their phones?

MAYANK JAIN

India’s largest e-commerce company is going app-only next month. It’s a massive gamble for Flipkart, but not only because its website – the fifth-most visited site in India – is going dark. Flipkart, which is expected to sell goods worth more than Rs 76,000 crore this year, is also gambling on Indian cellphones be-ing app-friendly. But are they really?

Smartphones sales and massive growth in mobile internet traffic are driving many  companies to focus most, if not all, of their ef-forts on their apps. That’s because app users are much more loyal and can easily be reached, through notifications, for repeat sales.

But despite the vast number of apps on offer, it is partly a zero-sum game. Most smartphones used in India don’t have enough storage space or memory to accommodate anything more than 15 apps or so. And most phones come pre-installed with plenty of apps, whether it is music players or Facebook and WhatsApp. That means shopping companies trying to convince you to install their apps are fighting for limited real estate on your phone.

Entrance Exam

“You have to compete for around 10 spots. There are 3,000 apps competing for that spot. It is like IIT entrance exams,” A repre-sentative from grocery retailer ZopNow told YourStory. Banga-lore-based ZopNow, for instance, only gets about 20% of all its transactions through its mobile app even as the company receives 50% of its traffic from mobile devices.

This was also echoed by Freecharge’s Founder CEO Kunal Shah in a Facebook post recently when he argued that Indian users mostly install 19-20 apps on their phones and questioned whether app-only is a good strategy in the light of high uninstall rates that many such apps witness as users scramble to free up space on their devices.

A study done by mobile intelligence company Quettera revealed a similar pattern when it analysed the most commonly installed apps on new phones on the day they are purchased in the month of June. Unsurprisingly, apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype were in the top-15 list but not even a single shopping web-site could make the cut. Interestingly, popular games such as Candy Crush, Temple Run and Subway Surfers were more likely to be installed than e-commerce applications.

Uninstall rates run high and cause a concern to online shopping businesses as users find their phones continuously overflowing with apps and performance suffering due to limited capacity pro-cessors and random access memory found in most of the budget phones which are fast replacing feature phones in the country.

“When it comes to apps, the primary challenges are in the realms of keeping user engagement alive and kicking and controlling the high uninstall rates,” wrote Snapdeal’s Vice President of Product Management Amit Khanna. “Smartphone users are a finicky lot, not exactly renowned for their patience and you need the app to have a very high degree of user friendliness and relevance to en-sure that the app stays installed and is used.”

App Junkies

Research conducted by Vserv, a mobile marketing and data ana-lytics company that analysed data from 12,000 Indian smart-phones over a period of three months, shows that most smartphone users aren’t installing that many apps regularly.

Even though users spent as much as 169 minutes per day on aver-age on their smartphones, only one-fourth of the sample turned out to be “app junkies”– users who were likely to install a large number of apps on their phones and consume the most data.

The remaining set, categorised as infrequent to moderate smart-phone users, downloaded anywhere between two-five apps on their phones each month. Even though it is unclear how many of those apps were eventually uninstalled, the profiling revealed that they were most likely to be communication or utility apps for emails, calls and battery saving etc.

App Gamble

Shopping companies choosing to go app-only then, have to be sure not only that their users will follow them from the website to the phone, but also that their app is good enough to be counted among those privileged 15 that don’t get uninstalled.

That’s the risk Flipkart-owned fashion retailer Myntra.com took earlier this year, when it went app-only, after noting that 95% of its traffic came from mobile. Myntra ended up recording a 10% dip in its sales after moving to the app-only model, although the company believes this is only temporary.

Not everyone is convinced though. Snapdeal Chief Executive Of-ficer Kunal Bahl, whose company competes with Flipkart, insists it is too early to adopt the app-only model.  “It is just the most customer-unfriendly approach,” Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl was quoted as saying by the Financial Times. “Our belief is that we need to be where users are; we can’t push users to go where we are.” —-Scroll

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